Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Housing Recovery Could Be on Shaky Ground


To understand the state of the housing market now I spoke with the co-creator of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, Robert Shiller...

Jennifer Schonberger: The latest Fed minutes showed the central bank is concerned the activity in the housing sector could be leveling off. What is your take on the state of the housing market now? Do you share the same concern as the Fed?

Robert Shiller: Yes. Home prices have been going up for nearly a year now, according to our data, the S&P/Case-Shiller indices ... Normally we could extrapolate that kind of upward trend because historically home prices have shown a lot of momentum. But I think we're in a very unusual circumstance because of the massive bailouts, the homebuyer tax credits, the Fed's purchase of mortgage-backed securities -- and these things are coming to an end. So it's an unusual period. So I don't trust the trend that we have. I'm worried that it might get reversed.

Schonberger: Speaking of momentum, I remember in our last discussion that momentum and confidence levels are keys in your view to examining the health of the housing market. Is momentum waning now?

Shiller: In terms of the S&P/Case-Shiller numbers, the rate of growth of home prices has fallen. If you look at them in nonseasonally adjusted terms -- just the raw data -- they're falling. But if you seasonally adjust them they're going up. But they're not going up so briskly as they were in the middle of 2009. That's one leading indicator. There are others as well. One that I particularly like is the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, which is based on a survey of their members. That has turned down starting last fall. So we've had months of decline in homebuilders' impressions as to the strength of the market.

Read full interview

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